Back to WoW? Maybe You CAN Go Home Again

I was a very early adopter of World of Warcraft. Thanks to a friend I played in the Friends & Family alpha and I kept playing pretty heavily until Burning Crusade came out. Then I quit, for reasons I don’t recall.

In the years since I’ve gone back a few times but it always felt…lonely, I guess. When I was hardcore in WoW I was in an active guild and we would play and chat for hours and hours. One of the few times in my life I’ve found a gaming group I really fit into.

Going back and them not being around was like going back to your hometown and visiting your old hang-outs, but your friends were no longer there.

With enough adds even Elywnn Forest can be dangerous

Every so often my Twitter timeline has a surge of folks who’ve gone back to WoW and I generally ignore them. For some reason, this time my FOMO overcame my reticence and I logged back in.

It’s a much different game

A LOT has changed in the 13-ish years since I played seriously. I DO remember going back after Cataclysm and HATING it. I zoomed through zones so fast and leveled so quickly it just felt frantic and bland. I’m that (apparently) rare player who enjoys reading the quest text and enjoys the leveling process and just exploring.

This time back, I started a level 1 character, human, in Elwynn Forest, same as I’ve done a dozen or more times. Difference is, this time I’m really enjoying myself. Maybe its just been long enough that I don’t feel lonely any more. Or maybe its the system itself.

The biggest change is that zones now scale. I can putter around Elwynn as long as I like and the mobs scale to my level, which keeps the gameplay really fun. I much prefer this to having a bunch of ‘gray’ quests to kill trivial enemies, and I like that I don’t feel pressured to move to the next zone. There’s a 100% experience buff so I am leveling like mad but Elwynn remains a place where I can and do die if I’m not careful (bloody murloc swarms).

No quest giver will lead you to this big spider, but it drops decent newbie loot

Questing quietly

It is also really quiet in the low level zones. I DID try to return when WoW Classic launched and the newbie zones were packed. Chat was so toxic I immediately turned it off, but I couldn’t turn off competing for spawns and being annoyed at knuckleheads cavorting around like a bunch of 8 years olds that just came home from an ice-cream eating contest where absolutely nothing was sugar-free.

I have nothing really earth shattering to reveal about a game this old that has been extensively covered my just about anyone who writes about games. But if like me you’ve been away for a LONG time, well…it just might be worth it to take another look. You can play to level 20 for free, so it won’t cost you anything to try. You might find there’s some fun to be had.

Fallout 76 Do-Over

I bought Fallout 76 for the Xbox One X when it first came out. BIG mistake. But you know that drama. The game was janky as heck, and the design had some major flaws, the biggest one being no NPCs. There’s nothing more depressing than doing a bunch of quests to track down people when you (the player) already know you’re just going to find their desiccated corpses.

Bethesda got the message, and it took them a year and a half but recently they rolled out the big Wastelanders update that adds NPCs, more quests and more things to do. It has improved the game a ton (though the jank, while better, certainly hasn’t been eliminated).

My little camp near a river.

A Fresh Start

I started playing again and I was liking it OK over in Xbox-land. This past weekend Bethesda had a free trial weekend, though, and on a whim I decided to download it on PC. I generally prefer gaming on console to PC (that’s a whole other post) but this time, wow, is Fallout 76 ever better on PC. The graphics are way better and using a mouse & keyboard, particularly when building your CAMP, is so much less frustrating. I know, I know, most of you PC gamers are saying “Well duh” but I generally use a controller even on PC. I find them much more comfortable.

Anyway, I decided to fully commit to the PC version, and snagged a copy while it was on sale for $30. It was a good time to make the switch since along with the free-trial weekend was a double-experience event, so I’m already higher level (all of 14, so still very low) than I was on Xbox where I’d started a new character for Wastelanders. I’m not as far along in the quest lines, but I’m higher level.

There’s some bad stuff happening in West Virginia

In fact I’m liking Fallout 76 so much I may go over to the dark side and buy a month of Fallout 1st, their much reviled “pay-to-win” (I guess?) system. I was thinking about buying some “Atoms” (their RMT currency) anyway and you get more with a month of Fallout 1st than you’d get buying the Atoms directly, plus you get some other nice perks including Private Servers and a Stash Box that sounds a lot life the Crafting Bags you get with ESO Plus for The Elder Scrolls Online. I don’t fret much about whether something is “pay-to-win” since I play solo anyway. Mostly I just want to make my CAMP look prettier by buying some cosmetics from the cash shop.

Polly the Robot is always trying to get ahead of herself /cringe

Stumbled onto Battle Chasers: Nightwar

I’m a subscriber to Microsoft’s Game Pass Ultimate. This is a “Netflix of games” kind of service that gives you access to a ton of games on Xbox and Windows. It also, kind of incidentally, also has something called Game Pass Quests.

These are (usually) simple tasks that earn you Microsoft Rewards points. There are daily, weekly and monthly quests and they all involve Game Pass titles in some way. One of the weekly quests this week was to earn 15,000 EXP in Battle Chasers: Nightwar. I had no idea what that was, but I installed it just to get those points.

I’m really digging the character designs

What’s it all about?

Turns out it’s a turn-based RPG and so far I’m really digging it. Now take that with a little grain of salt as I’ve only put an hour or so into it, but it has everything I love: a gorgeous art style, gear to chase, characters that seem interesting (I love that the beefy war golem is the first character you get who can heal), crafting, and it seems, the ability to grind if you enjoy that (I do).

The game takes place on (at least) 3 ‘maps’. There’s a world map where you have to follow roads and often have quick encounters that you can’t avoid. There are ‘exploration areas’ that look like an ARPG, though you don’t actually battle in them (but do explore for hidden loot), and then there’s the battle screen which is a side-view layout for the turn-based combat. There are also dungeons but I haven’t seen one of those yet.

Exploration area where you can find loot, lore & crafting materials

I don’t want to go too crazy talking about it until I get a little further in but did want to mention one little nuance I’m really enjoying and that’s mana management.

Actions, Abilities and Overcharge

Each character has actions and abilities. Abilities do more damage but use mana. Mana doesn’t replenish unless you quaff a potion or rest at an Inn and you don’t seem to have a ton of it. Normally you’d run out pretty quickly, but characters also have actions. These do less damage (or none, some are defensive) but build “Overcharge” which is a surplus pool of mana that only lasts for the duration of the battle. The idea is, you do a couple of light attacks (actions), each of which generates (for example) +10 Overcharge, and then you can use an ability that would normally consume 20 mana, but instead it’ll consume your Overcharge and you can save your mana for later battles.

It’s not an earth-shaking idea but it does add another layer of strategy to the battles since Overcharge is a ‘use it or lose it’ resource.

So early days, but I’m liking it a lot so far. If it sounds interesting, you can probably play it since its available for PC, Xbox, PS4, Switch, iOS and Android. You probably have hardware you can run this game on. It’s not a new game (first release was PC in 2017) so you should be able to find it on sale somewhere. Or if you have Game Pass, play it for free on Xbox or Windows!

19 Hours into Bravely Default & Still Lost

A few weeks back I got it into my head to have another go at Bravely Default on the Nintendo 3DS (the release of a demo for Bravely Default 2 on Switch had a lot to do with this). I’d played the game at launch and had put 19 hours or so into it before drifting away. With no clue what I was doing, I decided to start over.

Now, as it so happens, I’m back at 19 hours and I still have no clue what I’m doing. The game has a huge ‘job’ system. So far I’ve unlocked nine of the twenty-four jobs. Why so many? No idea. I only have four characters, but they can swap jobs at any time. Question is, should they?

The Right Way to Play?

I’m not sure what the “right” way to play is. Should I pick one or two jobs for each character and just level those, or should each character take on (eventually) six different jobs so I have each one maxed? Are there jobs that every character should learn? Does any of this even matter? Is it just preference? At any time a character can be leveling one job and using the abilities of a second job, so at the least each character should know two jobs for maximum performance. Beyond that…just not sure.

So far I barely use the “Abilities” of melee-focused jobs like Knight or Monk. My characters seem to do more damage with basic attacks than they do with abilities. Magic-focused jobs (White/Black Mage) are different of course. I need someone to act as Healer and someone to be able to do elemental/magic damage against monsters resistant to physical attacks. Should that be one person (that’s how I have it now… a Black Mage with White Mage support abilities) or two?

Geez this all sounds like I’m griping but the thing is, I’m not. I’m really enjoying trying to figure this all out. My first instinct was to go online and look up optimal strategies or what not. I started doing a little of that but took someone’s advice to just play the way I wanted to and see how things work out. Turns out actually playing the game myself is more fun than following some expert’s instructions. Go figure!

I Get By With a Little Help From My Friends

Of course talk is cheap when you have as much backup as I do. Bravely Default has an asymmetric multiplayer system where you can “Summon” the character of a friend to help out in battle. Since the game is so old I have plenty of friends who are much higher level than me and for now they act as a “Get Out Of Jail Free” card when a fight gets tricky.

There’s also a system where you rebuild a town after which the town’s denizens will gift you items. Town building takes real-time, but I’m playing the game so slowly that my town is already maxed out and I get gifted items that are way over-powered for the baddies I’m fighting.

Eventually I’ll presumably ‘catch up’ with both these systems and have to earn my progress the old-fashioned way. Hopefully by then I will have figured out a system.

It’s been a long time since I really got hooked on a turn-based JRPG like this one. I’m really enjoying myself. I just wish I was playing on a slightly larger screen. I really have to peer at the 3DS screen and I can only play for 30-40 minutes before it becomes uncomfortable. Of course the sequel will be on the Switch so I’ll play that on the TV.

Star Trek recaps: The Corbomite Maneuver

I’ve started another re-watch of Star Trek, the original series. This time around I’m watching them in the order they were made, rather than the order they were aired. There was the pilot (“The Cage” featuring Captain Pike rather than Kirk) then the 2nd pilot (“Where No Man Has Gone Before” which has most of the crew in place except for McCoy) and then the first regular episode made was “The Corbomite Maneuver.”

This is the one where the Enterprise encounters the scary alien shown above, but eventually they discover it is just a puppet and the actual alien is played by a VERY young Clint Howard.

Howard would’ve been about 7 in this role, though he didn’t voice the part. He was already an established actor, though. IMDB lists his first role in “The Courtship of Eddy’s Father” in 1963 — that would be the movie version, not the Bill Bixby led TV show. He was also on the Andy Griffith show with big brother Ron. His most recent listing is in 2020’s “American Pie Presents: Girls’ Rules” (whatever that is). That’s quite a long career in the business. Even more random trivia: he played an Orion in an episode of Star Trek Discovery.

Anyway back to Star Trek. I was always really creeped out by Balok; hearing the adult voice coming out of this creepy little kid’s body just gave me the icks. But the episode did introduce Tranya, so that’s something I guess. And more importantly it established the Star Trek theme of taking the moral high ground. After Balok threatens to destroy the Enterprise, and then to incarcerate the crew, his ship is apparently disabled and Kirk sends aid to help him out. The rest of the bridge crew thinks this is pretty cray-cray but Kirk is Doing The Right Thing which is what the original series was generally all about.

The title of the episode refers to Kirk’s bluffing Balok, saying the Enterprise is equipped with a Corbomite device that would reflect any damage done to it back on the attacker. I guess Star Trek invented the damage shield.

I also watched Mudd’s Women tonight, but I re-capped that back in 2016 so I won’t repeat myself now.

I’m really going to miss E3 2020

The first Electronic Entertainment Exposition was held in 1995, and I was there. (Prior to E3, gaming was relegated to a small section of CES.) I went to the first couple of E3s and had an absolute ball. When I left the gaming industry E3 was one of the things I really missed.

Over the years I’ve attended ‘virtually’ as best I could. In days or yore that meant tuning into TV coverage on G4 TV or Spike TV but of course in recent years so much is streamed that you can’t really watch it all. Every year I take at least a few days off of work so I can see as much as possible. At the least, I’d watch all the press conferences which are always my favorite part of E3 (even if they’re technically not really part of E3).

I know there’s been a lot of push back against the show recently. Pundits say it no longer serves a purpose and is too expensive. Sony pulled out last year and had done so this year even before the show was canceled. Nintendo still had a booth but a few years back they axed their big press conference in favor of a pre-recorded video.

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen pushback. After years of expansion, in 2007 E3 was rebranded as the “E3 Media and Business Summit” in response to complaints the show had become too consumer-focused, too big & flashy (and expensive). While E3 was supposed to be for industry professionals, it’s never been hard to get a ticket, particularly in the Internet era. Throw up a website (like this one) and say you’re part of the industry and you’d get in.

If you don’t remember the E3 Media and Business Summit, I wouldn’t be surprised. The format was a flop (at least for the at-home audience) and by 2009 E3 was a big flashy spectacle again.

With E3 gone this year, I think next year (assuming we’ve come to grips with COVID-19 by then) there will be a lot less griping about the format. I don’t think I’ll be the only one who misses E3 this year.

I know companies are going to do their best to recreate the buzz of E3 with online-only events, but early signs (Microsoft’s event last week, for example) show how hard that is going to be. The important thing about the actual E3 show is that it was massive, and with mass comes a gravitational pull. Even companies that weren’t technically attending E3 held their events during E3 week. That got both the at-home audience and the mainstream media’s attention, and that attention just fed the beast and made the show even bigger and more entertaining for those of us ‘on the outside.’

I know in theory E3 is still supposed to be about making B-to-B business deals and such, but the amount of hype generated among consumers by the event is, I think, even more significant. With no E3, no Gamescom and no Tokyo Games Show I suspect companies are going to have to spend even more on marketing than they normally do.

Maybe I’m talking nonsense, I dunno. I’m not an industry insider. I just know I’m really going to miss the spectacle of the show. The anti-E3 contingent gets its way this year. We’ll see if by next year they still think having no E3 is a good thing. My prediction is that at least some of them will have changed their tune by then and I won’t be the only one glued to YouTube watching the show next year.

Playing around with a new theme

Recently I had the urge to start blogging again, but I knew my theme here was severely out of date. Specifically it didn’t work for beans on a mobile device.

I decided to start fresh, and what you’re seeing is an early iteration of a new theme. There are still a fair number of issues with it. I over-estimated the amount of space I had on a phone for a top nav menu, and I have a lot of images that need resizing.

Problem is I don’t have a proper staging server for this site so I have to experiment ‘live’ but since I haven’t posted here in like 5 months I figure traffic must be near zero so I’m not going to worry about it too much.

Just figured I’d better make a post about it on the off chance someone stumbles onto the site before I get it finished.

Year in review: Is it me, or the industry?

I don’t generally go in for year-in-review or ‘top games of the year’ posts, but there’s been something on my mind that kind of lines up with reflecting on the past year.

With December winding down the big ‘holiday season’ of game releases has come to a close. I get amped for this season every year, and I was amped this year too; until it got here. Then I found myself bouncing off of new release after new release.

So here in the ‘prime new game’ part of the year I’ve been playing Assassin’s Creed Odyssey (2018), LOTRO (2007!), Red Dead Redemption 2 (2018) and most recently, The Witcher 3 (2015). I mean I’ve tried new games like Star Wars Jedi Fallen Order, Greedfall, Ghost Recon Breakpoint and The Outer Worlds but I’ve bounced off them all for one reason or another. The only new games I put any significant time into were Death Stranding, (and I’d probably play that a lot more if it were on another platform other than Playstation) and Gears 5.

Looking back over the year, this isn’t really a new trend for me. New games I played a significant amount of were Anthem (which, personally, I quite enjoyed) and Days Gone (which I not only finished but got the “Platinum Trophy” for). The rest of the year I was playing things like SWOTOR, FF XIV, ACO, No Man’s Sky, or noodling around with VR. Even Days Gone wasn’t “new” by the time I got around to playing it.

I’m not sure if this was just a weird year for me or if the gaming industry is moving away from the kinds of games I enjoy. Or maybe a little of each. In general I feel like I’m becoming more of a casual gamer. These days I rarely latch onto titles with a steep learning curve (back in the old days, the thicker a manual was, the more likely I was to enjoy the game) and I have absolutely zero interest in any kind of multiplayer experience. I guess my sweet spot is narrative-driven single player games and there aren’t that many of those.

I haven’t measured or anything, but I feel like I spend less time gaming now than I have, well, since gaming was a thing. I’ve been watching a lot more TV/YouTube and spending some time doing non-digital hobbies. Oh and I’ve been blogging a lot less. In fact I’ve been thinking about shutting the blog down completely.

But then there’s that light on the horizon: Xbox Series X and PS5. Whether that light turns out to be a warm welcoming campfire or the headlight of a train that it about to squish me, I’m not sure. Maybe one or both of those systems will get me excited again. Last year around this time I was getting back into PC gaming but that only lasted 6 months or so; I just still prefer the simplicity and comfort of console gaming on the couch, with Lola laying beside me keeping me company.

I guess until next fall things will remain pretty quiet. Any “hot” new games that come out for the Xbox or PS4 will probably be re-released in “Enhanced” versions for the new consoles once they launch, so I’ll wait on those versions. Even if they aren’t re-released, (and assuming MS and Sony make good on their backwards compatibility promises) the games will run better on the new hardware and be cheaper by then. So in either case I’ll wait to play this year’s big new games on next years fancy new hardware.

I guess 2020 is going to be The Year of the Backlog for me, which is OK; it’s cheap anyway!

A Month of Stadia

Streaming game service Google Stadia has been available for about a month now and I thought I’d recap what’s been happening with the service

The launch was a mess and it unfortunately set the tone among “influencers” who decided that Stadia was going to be their “negative videos draw eyeballs” topic for a while (I’m sure Anthem breathed a sigh of relief) but at this point most of them seem to have moved on.

Let’s get the bad news out of the way first. The elephant in the room is performance. While Stadia works really well in terms of lag/latency (for me at least), we’re constantly left scratching our heads when it comes to graphics quality. Stadia offers 10.7 teraflops of processing power, we are told, but generally speaking the graphic quality of games seems to land right around that of an Xbox One X (6 teraflops).

So if you have a PS4, Xbox One S, or a Switch, Stadia can offer you a graphics upgrade. Those of us with reasonably powerful PCs, Xbox One Xs or PS4 Pros are looking at a cross-grade situation, and gamers with high end gaming PCs are looking at a downgrade.

This leads to a lot of “What does Stadia offer me?” questions from serious gamers and the answer is, frankly, “Not very much.” Stadia is reasonably portable; you can play on a cheap laptop at a coffee shop, or on a selection of phones (or basically any device that you can run Chrome on) but it requires a steady Wi-Fi connection. It’s hard to justify purchasing a game twice just to be able to play at a coffee shop, particularly since Destiny 2 is the only cross-save game on the service, as far as I know.

There’s also the issue of the still very small library of game titles, but presumably that issue will sort itself out over time. The price of games keeps springing up as an issue but I’m not sure how fair that is. Borderlands 3 is $38.99, for example. That’s a “Pro” deal but everyone on the service now is a “Pro” so… Anyway price controversy sometimes seems to be based on perception as well. For example Darksiders Genesis launched on Steam for $30 and on Stadia for $40 which caused an uproar, but the price on Xbox and PS4 will be $40 when the game launches. People seem to think of Stadia as another place to play PC games, rather than a separate platform, so they expect pricing parity with Steam. (Why a game is more expensive on consoles is a valid question, but that’s a question for the publishers, not the platform holders.)

With all the bad news out of the way, Stadia seems to be a hit with a certain segment of the community. If you hang out on the Stadia or particularly the StadiaDadia sub-reddits you’ll find a community of “used-to-be” gamers who’re getting back into the hobby thanks to Stadia. The no-fuss, no-hardware Stadia experience appeals to these people who have no interesting in spending money on a console or gaming PC.

At launch Stadia was ‘missing’ a lot of features. I put that in quotes because it seems like some of the missing features are really “features that game developers haven’t taken advantage of yet.” For example last week Ghost Recon Breakpoint launched on Stadia and it’s the first game to support “Stream Connect.” This allows you to let other players see your stream.

In other words, say you’re in a 4-man fireteam in Breakpoint. You could have 3 picture-in-picture windows showing you what the other three members of your team are currently seeing. The idea is that this allows tightly coordinated actions to take place. I could see it being useful as a teaching tool as well.

Other missing features weren’t dependent on developers, and these are slowly being rolled out. We can finally buy games through a web browser, and the Achievement System (or at least, a first pass at it) came out last week.

So what about me? I confess I’m pretty disappointed in the graphical quality of games. I was hoping Stadia would be an improvement over the Xbox One X and/or my mid-tier gaming PC; sadly it is not. It’s hard to justify buying a game on Stadia at this point; why fracture my game collection? These days I’m back to reaching for the Xbox controller rather than the Stadia one most of the time. I DO really love the load times of Stadia games (Destiny 2 loads SO much faster than on the Xbox or Steam) and it’s kind of cool to buy a game and be playing it literally seconds later.

I still have hope for the service in the long term, but with Xbox Series X and PS5 coming out in less than a year I think Stadia needs to get better fast. Or maybe Google is content to gather in all the folks who can’t be bothered with having a bulky console in the entertainment center.

Bottom line: if you’re reading my blog you’re probably a serious enough gamer that you have hardware that can offer a better experience than Stadia currently does; I really hope that eventually changes.

The Stadia launch

Yesterday was the day Google Stadia launched. I guess I’ve seen worse product launches, but not many.

So here’s the deal. Back in June Google urged gamers to pre-order the Stadia Founders Edition in order to start playing Stadia as soon as possible and (potentially more importantly), to be able to reserve your Stadia name. The promise was that codes to reserve names would be sent out in the order that pre-orders were received. So the earlier you pre-ordered, the more likely you were to get your name.

My story isn’t so bad. I pre-ordered that day, within minutes of the pre-order page going live. I paid an extra $14 for expedited shipping. Here we are on Launch Day+1 and I still don’t have my Founder’s Edition. Meanwhile people who ordered in August got theirs first thing in the morning yesterday.

However I DID get my code shortly after noon yesterday and was able to reserve my username. Also since Stadia isn’t really hardware, I was able to use the service via Chrome on a PC. More on that in a minute, but I hope that $14 I paid for expedited shipping bought someone a nice lunch because it sure didn’t get me expedited shipping!

Other people had a much worse time. Plenty are still waiting on codes, or Founder’s Kits, or both. Over on Reddit folks are sharing when they got their codes vs when they pre-ordered and it is pretty clear there’s neither rhyme nor reason to how the codes are being sent out. I saw folks getting very upset that a person who pre-ordered much later than they did got their code first and snagged a username that a June 6th pre-orderer was hoping to get. People are rightfully pissed.

Of course this will all pass. But that isn’t all that is wrong with the launch. The service is just not ready. You can play games, there’s a Friends list and that’s about it. All the whiz-bang gee-gaws that Google promised, like being able to launch a game directly from a YouTube video, are MIA. You can take screenshots and record clips, but when you do you can ONLY view them on your phone, with no way to share or export them. Lots of little “Uh, wut?” issues like that.

Also for some reason a LOT of people got the idea that you paid for Stadia and got access to a whole library of games. I’m not sure where that came from but I think it was from dodgy game journalism. It isn’t the case. There are 2 tiers of Stadia. A free tier (not available yet) and a $10/month Pro tier (you get 3 months of that with the Founder’s Edition). The Pro tier is similar to Playstation Plus or Xbox Live Gold. It gets you 1 or 2 free games per month, discounts on game purchases and (in theory) better quality streams. The free games for this month are Destiny 2 and Samurai Showdown. Beyond that, Stadia offers a digital store offering mostly full price games.

So I wish that was all the bad news, but it is not. Despite all of Google’s talk about the processing power of the Stadia servers, (10.7 teraflops!) games seem to be running at pretty modest settings. I had hoped Stadia would be the way I could play PC games at max or near-max settings; games that my laptop couldn’t handle. So far, at least, that has not proven to be the case. The Stadia version of Destiny 2, according to Bungie, runs at roughly the same as middle PC settings.

So Stadia… dead in the water, right? Well, maybe not. Fact is, it works. When you push all this cruft aside and try to play a game, it works really well, at least from Chrome. Yes Destiny 2 looks prettier when playing through Steam, but my laptop’s fan is screaming in protest the whole time. Playing Destiny 2 on Stadia feels kind of magical. I open a browser window to stadia.google.com, (leaving open the the dozen programs I have running) click an arrow that looks like the Play arrow on a YouTube video, and I’m in the game. The laptop’s fan is silent. Loading times are much faster than on my local machines. If Stadia introduces lag (and it must) it isn’t enough for me to feel. I tend to get motion sick with too much input lag (before I got my new TV with a low input lag, I couldn’t play FPS on consoles without getting queasy) but Stadia is totally comfortable.

So there is hope. And in fact the ideal audience is already happy. Over on the Stadia sub-reddit there’s a group calling themselves “Dadias”. These are folk who used to be gamers but got married, had kids, and don’t have gaming PCs or modern consoles because they don’t game enough for them to be worth the investment. These guys & gals last played games on a PS3 (or earlier) and they LOVE Stadia. They love that when they’re playing on the TV and the kids want to watch a show, they can just switch seamlessly to a laptop (or even a Chromebook) and continue playing. They didn’t have to clear a $250-$300 console purchase with the spouse, or clutter up the living room with an ugly box. I think these people are the near-term audience for Stadia.

IF Google actually invests in this service and gets the graphics quality up, then Stadia could be a contender for me in years to come. When some new PC game comes out and my laptop can only run it at medium settings, and Stadia can run it at high, I’ll probably buy the Stadia version rather than upgrading my PC. I just don’t anticipate this happening much before 2021.

That’s the possible future. For today there’s not a lot of reason for you to get Stadia if you have a gaming PC, PS4 Pro or Xbox One X. Those systems all run the games better than Stadia is running them today. (If you have a base PS4 or Xbox One, then the Stadia versions would probably be an upgrade for you.)

Oh one last note. A lot of journalists are comparing Stadia to Microsoft’s xCloud and pointing out that XCloud is a better deal. Keep in mind the xCloud is running on Xbox One S units back in the data center and it only runs on mobile phones for now. The output is 720P. Stadia is definitely more powerful than that. We also don’t know what the pricing of XCloud will be. If all you want to do is run games on your tiny phone screen than yes, xCloud is probably the way to go. But for monitors and big-screen TVs you’re probably going to want more power. At some point I suppose xCloud will transition to Project Scarlet units but that won’t be for a few years yet. I just think it is too early to call a winner between these two services.